Intervention Model Helps Cancer Survivors Overcome Fear of Recurrence

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ConquerFear led to lasting improvement in fear of recurrence for patients, researchers found.
ConquerFear led to lasting improvement in fear of recurrence for patients, researchers found.

The novel psychosocial intervention, ConquerFear, improved fear of cancer recurrence (FCR) for at least 6 months compared with Taking-it-Easy relaxation therapy, results of a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology has shown.

Only a few studies have evaluated an effective means of intervention for fear of recurrence, even though it occurs in 50% to 70% of cancer survivors and leads to poor outcomes and increased healthcare costs.


For this study, researchers randomly assigned 222 cancer survivors to the ConquerFear or Taking-it-Easy interventions. ConquerFear is empirically developed from various models of cognitive therapy such as the Common-Sense model of illness, the Self-Regulatory Executive Function model, and Relational Frame Theory. Taking-it-Easy is based on models that promote relaxation. Patients completed questionnaires at baseline (T0) prior to randomization, at the end of treatment (T1), and at 3 months (T2) and 6 months (T3) later.

Compared with Taking-it-Easy, ConquerFear led to statistically and clinically significant improvements among study participants for total FCR Inventory scores from T0 to T1 (P <.001), and the improvements were maintained at T2 (P =.017) and T3 (P =.018). FCR Inventory severity subscale scores were also improved from T0 to T1 (P =.001), but these improvements were maintained only until T2 (P =0.23).

Patients assigned to the ConquerFear arm also experienced significant improvements from T0 to T1 for coping, psychological distress, anxiety, cancer-specific distress, triggers, mental quality of life, and metacognition. By T3, only psychological distress and cancer-specific distress remained significantly different.

Although results of the study demonstrate that ConquerFear led to a significant and lasting improvement in fear of recurrence for patients, the authors added “[a]dditional research is needed to optimize tailoring of FCR interventions to those with different needs and FCR levels.”


Butow PN, Turner J, Gilchrist J, et al. Randomized trial of ConquerFear: a novel, theoretically based psychosocial intervention for fear of cancer recurrence [published online November 2, 2017]. J Clin Oncol. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2017.73.1257
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